I live in Westerville, Ohio, a small suburb on the Northeast side of Columbus minutes from the airport. The Columbus Metropolitan Area is a pretty friendly place and is outwardly accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, as it should be.
It was brought to the attention of City Council that Westerville is on a short list of suburbs not doing anything to acknowledge or celebrate Pride. As a citizen, my first impression is, surely, this is an oversight. Our government buildings make postings to celebrate pancake breakfasts, fish fries, and a youngster making Eagle Scout. At a minimum, we need to have a Pride flag in front of City Hall.
On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, the Westerville City Council met and voted, 4-3 against flying a Pride flag at City Hall. To understand what happened, you really need to watch the meeting. The meeting is online here. The issue of the Pride Flag begins one hour and thirty-three minutes into the meeting.
There is a lot to be said about how certain members of Council conducted themselves. In particular, there were three that have likely reached their “best by” date and need to find their way out of leadership. They are public officials and the community is owed more than what they are able to currently offer. Two of them, the highest ranking members present, made themselves out to somehow be victims after voting against flying the flag. They also blamed citizens for not telling them sooner that Pride was in June… So… that?
It was like Donald Trump himself was sitting on that bench. I’ve been treated very unfairly. One member even suggested that she is owed an apology and took to Facebook to post a meme continuing to play the victim.
This is toxic behavior and does not belong in government. The third member is a prominent lawyer in Central Ohio. He is commonly a speaker at Continuing Legal Education seminars at the Columbus Bar Association and what he did, in my professional opinion, was reprehensible. If his amendment to the underlying motion was in-fact innocent, he could have rescinded his Amendment, acknowledged the impact of it, and made his own motion. At the very end of the meeting, we see him vote against even having a Pride flag put on a single light post in the City.
I will probably make a separate post giving my impressions on precisely what Council members did during the meeting and the Law Director’s advice.
The United States of America is rooted in a story of fighting tyranny, celebrating freedom, and allowing our citizens to do what they want. We like to drive fast, own property, shoot guns, set off fireworks, and we feel that what we do in private is no one’s damn business. And I’m no different. I drive a Yukon, own guns, rode a motorcyle until law school, and my love of everything fire has led to a woodstove in my house and countless barbeques.
If we say those are our values, then dammit, we need to be consistent.
Homosexuals have been discriminated against for a long time. Entire countries, organized religion, governments, insurance companies, health care providers, law enforcement, and courts, routinely, and openly discriminated against gays. And all of this wasn’t a long time ago.
It wasn’t until 2003, that the United State Supreme Court issued its ruling in Lawrence v. Texas invalidating thirteen state laws that made sodomy a crime. Yes, law enforcement used to arrest people, in their homes, and charge them with the crime of having sex.
In 2015, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and finally provided Due Process under the U.S. Constitution to same sex couples who desired to get married. And DOMA wasn’t some prehistoric holdover common law we inherited from Great Britain. It was born into Federal Law in the 1990s and a statewide issue for Ohio in 2000.
Heck, even today, before I wrote this, Ohio is proposing laws to discriminate against transgender people.
I have two daughters.
I do not care where someone goes potty. If you gotta go potty, go potty. (Pretty sure Dolly Parton said that first).
If a young person identifies him or herself as something other than the gender he or she was born to, who cares? Heck, that would be a really hard thing to realize for yourself. Instead of making folks feeling other or diminished, or less than, we should be saying, good on you for figuring it out!
I can’t situationally empathize with this struggle. The shame and struggles I watched my gay peers go through during formative years was terrible. The shame, struggle, and flat bullshit queer people have had to tolerate for years… it’s un-American, it was in-excusable, and it is still happening, out in the open.
In the month of June, if someone asks you to celebrate their freedom, and hands you a Pride flag? You put the damn thing up. It is the human thing to do and it is the American thing to do.